Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park

Where and Duration
In the forests of the Nyungwe National Park. The duration of the stay with the chimpanzees is about one hour. The trek to meet them varies between 1 and 6 hours, depending on the distance.
All year round. It is easier to spot the chimpanzees during the rainy months, as they come down from the mountains.
What's Included
Trekking and national park permit fees, trackers and national park ranger-guide.
More information
The Nyungwe National Park is home to approximately 500 chimpanzees. There are 2 groups habituated to human presence: one of them in the heart of the Nyungwe forest and the other in a small area of ​​Cyamudongo in the East of the National Park. Chimpanzee trekking can be done year round, but it is during the wet periods when finding the chimpanzees is generally easier than during the drier months. Due to the orography of the terrain, the dense vegetation cover and the behavior of the chimpanzees itself, the observation of these primates in Nyungwe is neither as close, nor as clear, nor as simple as that which occurs with mountain gorillas.
Chimpanzee trekking:
Difficulty: Medium / High Approximate time: from 1 to 6 hours one way Type of route: With a guide from the P.N. of Nyungwe and in group Due to the orography of the terrain, the distance at which the chimpanzees could be found and their own behavior, the trekking must begin very early. Registration at the National Park office must be done between 04:30 and 05:00 am where you will meet other possible members of the group (maximum 8 people) and the national park guide. Between 05:00 and 06:00 the trekking begins (these times are indicative and may vary). Depending on the location of the chimpanzees it may be necessary to go by vehicle to the starting point. Long before then a group of trackers will have gone out to locate the chimpanzees. The trekking takes place through the forest, so the terrain will be uneven, you will possibly find mud and sometimes the guide may need to open the path with a machete. Ideally, you should arrive at the chimpanzees' location very early, when they are practically waking up and can be seen in the trees. If you have a good physical preparation and are used to trekking, it is possible to walk at a pace that allows you to reach the chimpanzees early and thus have better photographic opportunities. If you walk slowly, make many stops and are not used to trekking, it is possible that by the time you reach the chimpanzees they will be very active, that they have descended to the ground or that they have entered areas that are difficult to access, so seeing them could be difficult. Depending on the season of the year, chimpanzees are located in the areas where they find food. During certain months the chimpanzees are in higher and more distant areas and in other months they are at a lower altitude and closer. For these reasons the distance to walk can vary between 2 to 6 hours.
Visiting time and number of visitors:
From the moment you come into contact with the chimpanzees, the time is approximately 1 hour. Sometimes the time may be higher because you will have to follow them. Other times the time may be less because the chimpanzees are entering the forest and following them is impossible or because they have descended to the ground in an area that is difficult to reach and cannot be seen. The maximum group for chimpanzees is 8 people for each of the two groups of chimpanzees in Nyungwe. In total 16 daily permits, so if chimpanzee trekking is one of the activities you want to do when visiting Rwanda, we recommend you book it in advance. The minimum age to see the chimpanzees is 15 years old.
Chimpanzees, unlike gorillas, are restless by nature, so they move around a lot. During the drier months, chimpanzees tend to forage in higher and deeper areas of the forest, so the distances to travel are longer. Depending on the season and location you may have to walk between 2 and 6 hours to find the chimpanzees. To locate the chimpanzees, a group of expert chimpanzee trackers go into the forest long before the group of visitors starts the trekking and thus be able to locate them so that the group can find them. Sometimes the guide will have to clear a path through the vegetation with a machete. At other times, it is possible that a fallen tree must be avoided and it is very possible that a short slope must be ascended. For all this it is important to have an adequate physical and health level to carry out this trekking.
Environmental conditions:
The trekking takes place through the rain forest so you should expect that there will be mud and at some point the path will be slippery. Inside the forest there is humidity, there are insects and there are plants, some of them nettles. For many people all these circumstances are part of this incredible experience. But it may also be the case that for other people getting into nature is a challenge.
Chimpanzee encounter:
The chimpanzees that are visited are partially habituated to human presence, otherwise it would be impossible to observe them even from a certain distance, which largely depends on the number of trees, vegetation, and the fact that chimpanzees spend a lot of time moving between the treetops. . It is important to bear in mind that due to their restless nature and the fact that they receive fewer visitors, chimpanzees tend to be constantly on the move. For this reason, unlike gorillas, it is normal to have to follow them through the forest. Chimpanzees spend time in the trees which is the best way to see them. Chimpanzees, unlike gorillas, sleep in nests that they build daily on the treetops. They are very restless animals that are in constant movement. Normally in Nyungwe the observation of chimpanzees is more feasible when they start to wake up, before they start to move and go down to the ground. The density of the vegetation makes observation difficult when chimpanzees are on the ground. For these reasons the visibility of these chimpanzees is better when they remain in the trees. Still and all you have to take into account that the branches of the trees can also make it difficult to observe. When chimpanzees are in an open area where the vegetation cover is not very dense, seeing them on the ground is simply spectacular. But we have to say that this is not usual. Undoubtedly for those who like hiking, and who have a great adventurous spirit, the experience of this trekking can be a challenge to live and enjoy. However, those looking for the best chimpanzee photography may find it disappointing. We have no doubt that the success of this trekking will depend on the expectations with which you do it. It may be the case that by the time you get to the place where the trackers have found the chimpanzees, they have entered a forest area that is impossible to follow, so finding the chimpanzees cannot be 100% guaranteed. The times to find the chimpanzees are estimates. Chimpanzees have sometimes been found as little as 30 minutes away. In the case of not being able to find the chimpanzees or only being able to see them briefly, there will be no type of return or compensation. The guide is the authority in the park so you should always follow his instructions. When the time comes, he will give instructions to start the return march.
Best season to see chimpanzees in Nyungwe:
Our experience shows us that the months of mid October to mid December and mid March to June are the easiest months to locate and find chimpanzees. The reason is because they are humid months and the chimpanzees can easily find food, so they do not need to move excessively or go into the interior of the forest. During the humid months, especially during the long rains that are in April and May, walking through the forest is more difficult due to the slippery nature of the terrain and the amount of mud that will accumulate. There will also be more vegetation cover so more obstacles will have to be overcome. In mountain forests, the rains can occur at any time, but they generally occur at sunset and during the night. During the drier months of June to October, chimpanzees must move more in search of food. These are the months that they are located in higher areas of the mountain and go into the forest, so locating and finding them usually takes much longer, so you will have to walk longer distances. The vegetation cover is less, but they go deeper into the forest and sometimes following them is impossible. In these months the land will be drier, there may be some occasional rain but it is not frequent. Walking through the forest, although it can always entail some small difficulty, is easier than doing it during the humid months and for the vast majority more pleasant. These are the best months for other hiking activities in Nyungwe.
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park
90.00 USD per person
Maximum group:
10 people
Minimum age:
15 years old